Postcard from Genève

September 2009 – Place du Bourg de Four

Place du Bourg-de-Four
Place du Bourg-de-Four

I am sitting here outside Chez Ma Cousine ‘on y mange du poulet’, (literal translation – at the house of my cousin one only eats chicken) which is just one of the little cafés in the square, having a rest after walking around the Old Town (lots of ups and downs and cobbled streets), sipping a large café crème. The sun is shining and it has been another very warm day for late September, so the shade of the umbrella above me is welcome. The Place du Bourg is lovely!

Geneva, fountains and flowersThis is the centre of the Old Town and has an 18th century flowered fountain, which I am sitting next to. I have got into fountains in a big way since coming to Genève – they are everywhere, and all so different, flowers, sculptures, swans – fascinating!

As I look around me I notice that this spot attracts lots of little sparrows alternating between sips of water and splashing in the fountain to cheekily trying to pinch crumbs off the tables. They land on the tables and chairs all around me, but are too quick for my camera, though I manage to capture one poised on the edge of the fountain, with his back towards me, of course! There is the sound of someone playing a recorder, badly, from within one of the apartments in the square. Shutters and windows wide open to the sun and the constant murmur of people in conversation buzzes in the background.

Geneva - Place du Bourg-de-FourAlthough it is only four o’clock in the late afternoon there is very little space at any of the cafés. Empty tables are soon filled. People are now drinking cold beers and white wine; groups of friends meeting up – standing up to greet each other nosily  with the flamboyant kiss/kiss/kiss on both cheeks.

“Eh! Comment ça va?”

(Hey! How are you?) their happy smiling faces. Husbands wait patiently for their wives to stop their shopping in the Rue du Rhone, Rue de Rive and Place du Molard (watches, parfumeries, fashion and chocolatiers); elderly ladies, very smartly dressed and coiffured, read a book or a newspaper and a young student sitting opposite me with her study books open on the table makes notes whilst casually sipping her Evian water

Geneva Fountain
Sparrows on the fountain

Occasionally a young boy on his way home from school will arrive at the fountain and climb up for a drink, casually dropping his school bag in the dust and eyeing my camera with curiosity. Small children amuse themselves by running around the circumference, giggling as they hide from their parents. It is a busy, lively place, sunlight streaming through the autumnal trees. I have had to buy another coffee as I am reluctant to leave just yet.

boy and fountain
Boy in the fountain

An elderly gentleman has come to sit at the table next to me, he is also alone, his red polo shirt matches the red umbrella under which he sits in the shade and together we observe all who pass by. Two young Genevois couples meet up and order bottles of Rosé wine and a tall jug of Pimms: they all light up cigarettes.

Geneva - la Clemence

It strikes me how many young Genevois smoke. Must be how they keep so slim! Funny how we have become so used to no smoking in public in the UK that it is now so noticeable in Europe!

At another table in the next café along which has white umbrellas, a beautiful Italian-looking lady is wearing the classic dark glasses. Silver bands hold back her glossy black hair and she talks loudly on her mobile phone – hands gesticulating in the air – her large cup of cappuccino forgotten and going cold. Ah life is wonderful, but now I must go and make my way to the Promenade de la Treille to see the avenue of Chestnut trees and the world’s longest bench.

Ciao, ciao – I’ll write again soon xx

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

35 thoughts on “Postcard from Genève”

  1. Fantastic write up! Chez Ma Cousine is one of my favourite spots for lunch in Geneva, it’s difficult to beat it for value. And I’m glad you mentioned about the smoking, coming from the UK it is really bizarre how many people smoke here. However having seen the Swiss anti-smoking commercials it’s not hard to see why there is such a difference!

    1. hey Ben, thanks for commenting – I missed this one whilst I was away. The old town is a lovely area, I remembered it from my younger days when I was an au-pair in Geneva, hasn’t changed much, though I have!!

  2. Hi Jude – lovely post – interesting comment on the smoking, I contrast Switzerland with the US when it comes to smoking, if you try to light up in the US you need to walk far from the houses and you often end up in a park with the dispossessed, it gets you thinking. Basically if you smoke in the US you feel like a leper. Here in Switzerland I keep seeing these young children, for want of a better word, they may be teenagers, but only just barely, and they light up and I want to walk over and say, you really don’t want to do that trust me. But of course I don’t. It’s part of the Swiss mindset though that the government shouldn’t dictate individuals life-choices, but that everyone is free to do as they please, which is why when even Italy and Ireland had banned smoking from pubs, it was still very much happening here. When bars and restaurants were forced to have separate smoking and non-smoking areas, a lot of bars in Basel just changed to being clubs, they named themselves “fumoirs” made you pay 25 Chf to become a member and then you can go in and they smoke as much as before. I admired the US approach personally, as it has worked so well. Regarding the UK though – I noticed loads of people standing out in the rain smoking and drinking at pubs where you can no longer be inside smoking.

    As I have a million and one things to do at the moment I decided to check out the WHO website for smoking prevalence, ccouldnt find anything but did find prevalence in CH in 2012 was 28.2% of the total population, and for 2013 according to UK statistics it was 20% for the UK and 24% for Northern Ireland. Compared to the Balkans where it’s around 30-40% of the population it’s a bit better. And 17.8% for the US (down from 20.9% in 2005)….Like I said I have a LOT to do..

    1. A lot of people here now use those electronic cigarettes. I do hope they don’t encourage young people to use them, it’s an habit they can do without (as an ex-smoker myself). I see you are like me – can’t resist looking something up and then end up on a tangent and before you know it the entire day has gone by! Interesting statistics you uncovered there though.

      1. Hi Jude – absolutely – encouraging young people bad – exactly cannot resist looking stuff up – I did manage to recoup some of the day which was then spent fighting with computer systems, that is why I love to blog really, because a) the outcome is not particularly relevant, in the way that it’s not life or death b) you can just do it for fun and write about stuff that moves you there is not really any pressure. Unless I guess you are ambitious and want thousands of people following you, I am happy with the people I manage to interact with on a personal level, blogging buddies 🙂 – have a good weekend!

  3. People watching is one of my most favourite activities. 🙂
    Re electronic cigarettes – I have heard that recent research is showing that they can be just as bad for you as real cigarettes. I’m just glad I never did start smoking, because giving up must be very hard to do.

    1. Yes, you have to wonder about the E-cigarettes. I didn’t start smoking until after my first marriage broke up and I was never a heavy smoker and could stop quite easily if I chose to. Once I decided to stop for good I did. But it can be hard for a lot of people. One bad side effect is that once I stopped I did put on weight and I think that is one reason why people start again, especially women.

  4. Wow, Jude, you really captured the atmosphere and mood of this place, and the people who inhabit and enliven it! I love this write up. It takes me right there, and puts me in the midst of your experience. I love it. I’ll link this to my next prose invitation on Tuesday, June 12. Thanks for writing this. 🙂

    1. I like to people watch. And it was very nice sitting there in the sun. I made notes in my travel journal and I must start doing that again.

      1. I’m sure it was pleasant sitting there in the sun. It was pleasant for me just reading about it. If you made those great notes in your journal in 2009 (wasn’t it from then?), then your journals are full of things to write about, Jude. 🙂

        1. Only one? I have a pile of travel journals that I now keep all in one place. But the details I captured in past trips are not good enough to provide material for essays or much of anything!

      1. No and I can’t reprint them without the ticket no. Can’t track the confirmation email down but I have proof of payment so I’ve emailed asking for another confirmation email. Not what I need right now. 🙂 🙂 You ok?

        1. Very muggy here the last few days resulting in migraine and swollen joints, including my hands so I haven’t been on the PC much. OH birthday today so we went for lunch in Mousehole with old friend of his who is over here from Canada so he had a good time talking music (and playing). Everywhere very busy though! Hope you get the tickets sorted out!

        2. Thunderstorms a-brewing? For me, headache and achey hip. Though that could be the tickets and t’ai chi. 🙂 🙂 Got to keep smiling- but it was hard yesterday. Till Rafa won 🙂

  5. What a great story from your memoirs Jude. I felt I was sitting with you Isn’t it great to have these records to look back on. I found this through the link from Cathy

    1. Time when I used to write notes on travels! Now I usually just use photography, although I did make some jottings on the trip up the east coast in 2016 which I used to write a post or two.

      1. I tended to keep very mundane notes ie mileage money spent distance travelled no inner feelings or even thoughts on people met. Like you I rely on photos

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